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Matildas fire into quarter-finals with 2-0 defeat of Denmark

Caitlin Foord scoring against Denmark in the round of 16. Photo: Getty

Caitlin Foord scoring against Denmark in the round of 16. Photo: Getty Photo: Getty

The Matildas have charged into the Women’s World Cup quarter-finals and welcomed back Sam Kerr in style with an imperious 2-0 win over Denmark.

Caitlin Foord scored Australia’s first goal in the 29th minute, brilliantly teed up by Mary Fowler, which sent the Matildas on their way.

Then Hayley Raso added a second goal in the 70th minute in front of 75,784 screaming fans at Sydney’s Stadium Australia.

Superstar captain Sam Kerr also returned off the bench to a standing ovation for her first brief appearance of the tournament near the end of the game.

“We found our way into the game and with some individual brilliance on the break that was enough to get away with the win tonight,” said coach Tony Gustavsson.

“Sam coming back now could be a good thing in the sense that we don’t need to look to her to carry everything on her shoulders.

“It’s a team effort and a team tournament and (having her back) is like the icing on the cake.”

Australia will next play either France or Morocco, who face off in Adelaide on Tuesday night, at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.

While the United States, Germany, Brazil and Canada have already crumbled and exited stage left, the Matildas have charged into the final eight for just the second time, and laid down their marker as a contender.

The Matildas previously reached this far in Canada in 2015.

“We’re just enjoying our performances and building on that,” star attacker Caitlin Foord told reporters.

“We want to keep building and keep coming out better, we’ve set the bar now to what our performance is and what the bare minimum is.

“We know we have to keep taking it to another level if we want to go all the way.”

The Matildas will cruise into the quarter-finals with the Cup blown wide open, high on confidence and believing they can handle whatever opponent is thrown at them.

But Australia won’t look beyond Saturday’s quarter-final and towards their dream of holding up the World Cup just yet.

“That’s obviously the dream. Yeah, I mean, everyone’s here to to do that, right?” Kerr said.

“But we’ve said from the start, even before the tournament, we’re taking this one game at a time and we’re not going to look too far ahead because that’s when you slip.”

Magic moments

The Australians looked nervous early and were given some troubles by a determined Danish outfit.

Mackenzie Arnold was forced into a low but comfortable save by Katrine Veje in the opening minute.

Danish star Pernille Harder caused headaches and spurned chances after superb bursting runs in the 10th and 17th minutes.

Against the run of play, Australia took the lead when Fowler cut past a defender in midfield, then neatly turned on the ball and switched onto her left foot, before launching a precise ball into the path of a charging Foord out wide.

Foord took a touch, steadied then buried a cool shot through goalkeeper Lene Christensen’s legs before wheeling away to the crowd, cupping her ear in celebration.

For Australia’s second, Fowler whipped a ball into Kyra Cooney-Cross on the left wing, then burst forward to receive it back.

Fowler slipped through to Emily van Egmond, who had the presence of mind to knock it back for Raso to drive home her third goal of the tournament.

Kerr warmed up for a large chunk of the second half, to the crowd’s delight.

When she entered the fray with 10 minutes of regular time remaining, the skipper sent the crowd into raptures.

She had them on their feet when she burst forward and shot off target in the 87th minute, in an exciting sign of things yet to come.

There was a heart-in-mouth moment late when Kerr went down, but she recovered and played out the game.

-AAP

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